I’ve been getting so many emails and LinkedIn messages over the past few months from consultancies and agencies in the HR industry and the vast majority of them have been about how they’re struggling to find new clients in these difficult times.
There are many different reasons why a business in the HR industry may struggle to find new clients but today I want to take a quick look at what may be the biggest reason that you’re struggling to win more work:
Is your HR business positioning losing you new clients?
(As always, when I say the HR industry, I mean all the areas such as recruitment, learning & development, employee engagement, HR compliance, and so on).
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Ok, let’s get started on improving your HR business positioning . . .
Prefer To Listen? Here’s The Podcast Episode On How To Improve Your HR Business Positioning To Win New Clients
(Scroll down to read instead).
The Biggest Problem
Ok, so let’s look at what may be the biggest problem that’s holding back your business at the moment.
Have you ever seen those Where’s Waldo/Wally picture books?
You know the ones where the guy is in a red & white shirt in a crowded scene full of red and white people and objects. Ah, they’re great fun!
Anyway, here’s the big question you need to answer: Is your business the HR version of Where’s Wally?
Are you getting lost in a sea of other look-alike HR businesses?
For example, have a listen to how this HR business describes itself on its website home page:
We will help you bridge the gap between vision and performance. We will enhance your existing or new business with our practical HR advice and leave you with sustainable HR programs for the future.
How does that make you feel?
Do you feel like you’ve discovered the Human Resources firm that’s exactly right for your business?
What about these ones from real HR firms . . . ?
- Our range of comprehensive HR solutions address the specific needs of your organisation with the single-minded goal of making it easier for you to create and manage a work environment that delivers results and sustainable commercial growth.
- Our highly experienced Human Resources Professionals supply advice and add significant value to companies on an as-needs basis.
- We will help you bridge the gap between vision and performance. We will enhance your existing or new business with our practical HR advice and leave you with sustainable HR programs for the future.
“Comprehensive HR solutions; Delivers results; Sustainable commercial growth; Add significant value; Vision and performance; Sustainable HR programs” – sounds like a round of Business Buzzword Bingo.
Hmmm . . .
Now, I’m picking on consulting firms here but it applies right across the HR industry including:
Do any of these mission statements on websites sound like your business or your website?
If your business looks and sounds exactly like every other one of your competitors, then people can only really judge you based on price or reputation.
And the big firms like Heidrick & Struggles, Ernst & Young, and others have reputation all sewn up with their swanky corporate offices, global reach, and huge marketing budgets.
So then it comes back to price again.
In other words, if you look and sound like all the other consultancies or agencies in your part of the HR industry, you’ll have to lower your price and hope that the client randomly decides to buy from you, but only after they’ve managed to grind down your rates even further.
You want to make your HR-Related business stand out
I recommend taking a few minutes, days, or even months to become laser-focused on the types and categories of clients that you want for your business.
Understand their needs, wants, questions, and concerns. Also, consider what they don’t want or need.
You can spend months on this or you can sketch out a one-page outline during a lunch break – both approaches work.
Stop being all things to all people – connect with your ideal audience. It will pay off for you.
Now, you may be thinking that it’s really hard to work out your exact target audience or to work out what to say to them so let’s start with a simple approach and look at a basic method for segmenting your audience which can be very effective.
You simply think about the different roles and businesses that you want as clients and clients and approach them differently.
Whenever I want a business to become super attractive to its target market, I always start by working out who it should be aimed at and segmenting my audience in a basic way.
The easiest way is to come up with some ‘buyer categories’.
It might sound difficult but it is just a list of your main client categories and some background information to guide you.
It’s important to break it up because all categories are different as they all have different needs and pressures and frustrations.
For example, for my HR consulting business website, I segmented all website visitors and email subscribers into the following categories:
- HR Professionals
- External Consultants To Companies
- Business Owners
I did this because they were all looking for different things and, to be honest, I just put the Student category in there so they wouldn’t mess up my database.
HR professionals are usually in mid to large-sized companies with decent budgets and support behind them.
Business owners like you and I have a lot more to contend with so they are looking for different things – they’ll also want things that are quick, low cost or free so they can solve an immediate problem. They may well spend money on larger services later but they’ve got a lot of things on their plate so it may take time.
HR professionals will know what they are looking for and will be prepared to spend more because they are buying for a large corporation. They will, however, often be quite slow-moving as they don’t control the budget – they have to get approval from the powers that be. They also need a lot of proof to back up their choice – their reputation is on the line.
Do you see how that works?
Instantly, I knew, at a very basic level, who was coming to my website and what drove their behavior.
I could also tag visitors, track their sign-up process, purchases, and so on using Google Analytics and my CRM system, my email system.
Visitors then had pages, information, and special offers dedicated so they look super attractive to them when the time comes to make a purchase
Why not take a moment and think about how would you divide up your client categories?
- Where are they based located?
- What are the typical characteristics of their business?
- What are their immediate problems and longer-term challenges?
- What’s going on for the key person there? No, not the CEO, but the person who’s going to be the one doing research online and filling in the Contact Us form on your website?
- What have you got to offer in terms of those specific challenges (no generic mission statements or jargon please)?
A more advanced approach to segmenting your audience doesn’t have to be too complicated – it just adds more data to the process.
For example, it might involve putting all your client details into a spreadsheet along with all the revenue each one has generated. Once they’re in the spreadsheet, you can slice and dice the data in various ways.
You might look at:
- Average/total client revenue by industry.
- Average/total client revenue by business headcount.
- Average/total client revenue by location.
- Average/total client revenue by role in company of key contact.
- Average/total client revenue by role in company of project type.
- Average/total client revenue by role in company of use case/reason for using your services.
- And so on.
This will help you to decide who and what to focus on when it comes to targeting the right types of businesses and people within those companies.
I go into this in more detail on my blog so do check that out and make sure you’re on my mailing list to get more on this topic.
Once you’ve given some thought to the different segments in your target market, there are plenty of ways in which you can play to your strengths and talk directly to these people.
- You can change your website home page so that the wording, layout, design, imagery, menus and content are focussed on your target market.
- Add self-selection to your website and menus (“Which of the following options best describes you…?“) to guide people to a tailored page or section of your website.
- Create use cases or case studies that address different segments of your target audience.
- Create sections or pages within your website designed just for each target segment.
- Create blog content aimed at each specific target segment.
- Create webinars and videos that address specific issues for sub-sections of your audience.
- Share social media updates that speak to different segments on different occasions.
- Segment your email/CRM database according to the different target audiences.
- And much more.
On my blog, I share a handy little two-line formula you can use to differentiate your HR business when talking to prospective new clients so do check that out.
If you’re still struggling to find points of difference or something unique that the competition doesn’t have but that clients value, you could identify something your clients have told you were special such as:
- Your service arrangements or standards (but avoid slipping into clichés)
- Your pricing or billing arrangements
- Your specialty or area of expertise
- Your team’s personalities and relationships
- Your product packages or service packages.
If you can’t think of something without it descending into meaningless generalizations (such as: “We offer the best service due to our extensive experience”), then coming up with new product packages or service package might be the way to go.
An example . . .
I once gave a talk at a conference to about 200 people on the topic of employee engagement. The previous week I had won a new client by explaining that the consulting work I could do was like an ‘employee engagement kick-start program’ – it wasn’t a formal package or program and I was only planning to do my usual consulting work but, in the potential client’s office, it was the easiest way to explain what I was offering.
In my conference presentation, I mentioned what smart employers were doing here and in other countries. I mentioned, only in passing, that my ‘employee engagement kick start program’ was based on these principles.
In the weeks after my conference presentation, I received several emails from audience members.
None of the emails mentioned the theories or best practices I’d described, but all of them asked for more information on my ‘employee engagement kick start program’ which, until that moment, had never existed before.
Packaging your services works.
It makes generic consulting or ‘professional services’ more tangible.
Packaged offers can help you get your foot in the door with an organization so you can offer higher-value services down the track.
They’re easier to understand and, therefore, easier to sell.
Anyway, we’re getting off-topic – the overall lesson I wanted to share with you today is this:
Segmenting and understanding your audience can win you more business and actually let you charge more.
Understand their needs, wants, questions, and concerns.
Also, consider what they don’t want or need.
You can spend months on this or you can sketch out a one-page outline during a lunch break – both approaches work.
Either way, take a few minutes, days, or even months to become laser-focused on the types and categories of clients that you want for your business.
Stop being all things to all people – connect with your ideal audience.
It will pay off for you.
About The ‘A Better HR Business’ Podcast
In my HR marketing podcast, I talk with different HR consultants and HR tech companies from around the world to learn about what they do and how they keep their businesses healthy and moving in the right direction.
If you have questions you want me to ask me about growing an HR consultancy or marketing for HR tech companies, just let me know or visit the HR marketing services page.
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Enjoy the show!